Strength: Living with an Undefended Heart


Of all the cards in the Tarot, I find myself most repeatedly returning to the Strength card as a source of untold wisdom. No matter how much time I spend with this card, it always has more to teach me.

Ruled by Leo, the Strength card is an invitation to face the things that frighten us with open, soft, undefended hearts. In doing so, we initiate an opportunity for true transformation, aiding us not just in acknowledging our fears, but in befriending them.

In the Smith Rider Waite Strength card, we see a woman dressed in white, adorned with flowers, with a calm and trusting expression on her face. In the card, this woman is laying hands on a lion. We understand that the lion could attack her, perhaps kill her. But instead, the lion is relaxed, open, accepting of her touch.

The infinity loop around the woman’s head tells us that this is no ordinary connection. The woman is being guided, perhaps despite her better judgment, to show up with an open, curious heart. Because the woman shows up undefended — no weapons, no shield, no armor — it shifts the energy of the interaction with the lion from one of potential violence and misunderstanding to one of deep, intimate relatedness.

When we speak of the Strength card, we often focus on the lion outside of us: the things we are afraid of in the world, the tough conversations we have to have. We don’t often relate it to the world within ourselves.

Both of these archetypes, person and lion, exist within us, communicating with one another all the time.

What shows up as the lion within you? What are the wild and scary aspects of yourself? We all have parts of our inner landscape that feel unpredictable and frightening. Our natural human impulse is to stay as far away from these parts of ourselves as humanly possible, and yet this is exactly the opposite of the Strength card’s invitation. The lions within us, no matter how spiky, heavy, or uncomfortable, are longing for us to acknowledge them. We don’t need to go back into traumatic memories or thoughts. We don’t have to indulge in harmful behavior or impulses. But the willingness to touch the hand to the heart, to close the eyes against the roar of our contraction, and simply say, “Hey there. I see you. I witness you. I acknowledge you,” can be a transformative experience.

How do we show up to these feral, wild places within us? How can we practice this? We can show up like the person on the Strength card — frightened, perhaps, but open, soft, and willing to befriend these aspects of ourselves. The unexpected magic that occurs within these moments is that, rather than attacking, the inner lions tend to soften. They tend to become calm and quiet. Sometimes, if we are lucky, those parts of ourselves can trust us enough to communicate to us, whispering their fear, hurt, pain, or grief into our ears. From there, we can cradle the deep feelings in our hands like a baby bird, learning slowly, one step at a time, to reparent ourselves.

Understanding, and more importantly, directly experiencing this kind of inner shift is life changing. Showing up with an undefended heart to our inner lion can help us cultivate greater intimacy and compassion toward all aspects of ourselves. 

No matter how fierce the lion might seem, remember this: everything gentles when we offer it our compassionate witness. The Strength card shows us, again and again, that this is possible.

I invite you to consider how you can connect with the Strength card in this way. What is asking for your attention and acknowledgment at this time? What emotions, feelings, or thoughts have been showing up at your door? How do you usually relate to those experiences? Asking these questions is the gateway into this kind of transformative interaction with ourselves. From there, we can show up in ways that feels supportive and resourced.

I would love to share a spread below that will help to bridge these concepts together with a practice. May it serve you in your continued expansion.



A Soul Tarot Spread for deepening our relationship with the Strength card

  1. What is the “lion” in my life at this time?

  2. What is it trying to communicate to me?

  3. How can I offer this lion my compassionate witness and attention?

  4. What defenses need to be released within me in order to do this?

  5. How can I caretake my heart in these moments?

Strength is an important foundational lesson in my upcoming Tarot course, Tarot for What Is, which is currently open for enrollment. If this resonated with you, and you would like to go deeper around this card, and gain skills to support your Tarot practice, I encourage you to check it out. To learn more about the course, or to sign up, click here.